Monthly Archives: April 2008

The Official SOE Podcast #33

Alan “Brenlo” Crosby and Aimee “Ashlanne” Rekoske host this episode of the SOE Podcast, with Old Man Gamer “Dellmon” reading the news.

  • SOE Game News
  • Follow Ups from Podcast 32
  • Listener Emails: Dennis, Louis and Jason
  • Dramatic Rant Reading from Auroz on the Station Forums
  • Inside SOE – The Tale of SOE Fan Faire 2008 (Vegas again!)
  • Interview with Laralyn McWilliams Lead Designer for Free Realms
  • Interview with Hubert the Hamster
  • EverQuest Game updates
  • EverQuest II Game Update 44
  • EQ2’s Day
  • Brenlo’s 41st Birthday (April 8th)
  • TV and Movies
  • What are you playing?
  • Out Takes

The show is available on iTunes as well as from the official SOE podcast site.

The show was recorded on April 9th and runs just under one hour and eighteen minutes.

LOTRO is Go!

The replacement 8800GT arrived from Velocity Micro yesterday afternoon. So after a quick swap I was able to try the new card out.

The first thing I did was run the nVidia stability test which would cause the old card to crash within 30 seconds, regardless of card temperature.

The new card ran through a 10 minute pass without issue.

Then I brought up LOTRO, got out my hunter, and played for a little over an hour.

No issues their either. Plus, my hunter hit level 24. Only one more level until he gets his first horse.

So I am all set to play Lord of the Rings Online again.

And a good thing too.

Within the instance group there has been some renewed interest in LOTRO.

Skronk (Potshot) has been back in the game a bit.

Ula has shown some interest in coming back to play now that housing is available.

And I have had the urge to go back for a while now, which is why I have been griping about my video card issue.

And that urge increased when I read that one of the new Book 13 features is fishing!

Fishing!

For no good reason I end up fishing in almost every MMO I play. (There is no fishing in EVE Online… but mining is pretty much the moral equivalent.)

I like that Turbine has declared fishing a “hobby” as opposed to a profession. Although you can cook your fish and eat them if you have the right profession, the true spirit that seems to be in play here is titles and such, always a strong point in LOTRO.

So look for me on the shores of Nen Harn, fishing pole in hand, some day soon.

Underbog – Round 1

It was Saturday night and time for ancient television references as we went to face the Underbog.

The name alone inspired me to sing out on Skype:

Speed of lightning! Roar of thunder!
Fighting all who rob or plunder!

This generated something of a stunned silence from my fellow travelers who rebounded after a few moments in a silent agreement to simply ignore that outburst and move on as though it had never happened.

I guess I am the only Wally Cox fan. I’ll just keep my copy of “The Bedford Incident” to myself then. Carry on, Seaman Queffle.

(And in getting the links to the above silliness, I also found out that Larry Storch was the voice of Phineas J. Whoopie. I had no idea! That so makes up for that horrible guest appearance on CHiPs with Larry Linville.)

But enough side tracking, on to the instance. And we moved on to it with the following group:

64 Warlock – Bungholio
64 Mage – Ula
64 Priest – Skronk
64 Paladin – Vikund
64 Warrior – Earlthecat

That was the same level line up as last week, though we were all getting close to 65.

The instance itself is down the drain in Coilfang Resivoir with the Slave Pens, off to the right of the meeting stone.

We went in, spelled up, and began the crawl, Earl’s Goblin Rocket Launcher still pulling for the team.

That is never not funny.

At first things went well enough. We cleaned up the trash and found our way to the first boss, Hungarfen.

He actually has two minions standing with him, so we were ready for a big fight, but when Earl tagged one of the minions, only the pair of them came. Hundarfen remained behind.

So the pair went down easy enough and we went after the big guy.

That did not go as well.

By himself, Hungarfen isn’t such a big deal, but as you fight him, these mushrooms start growing out of the ground in his area. Explosive mushrooms. And like some Super Mario nighmare scene, they exploded and did a lot of damage. Caster killing damage. Which turned into party killing damage pretty quickly. Wipe!

And so we regrouped and tried again.

This time Earl went out and kept Hungarfen in motion, moving him away from mushrooms while Skronk and Vikund worked on healing and Bung and Ula did the damage thing.

That went much better and Hungarfen was defeated.

From there we followed the obvious path up some ramps, through the usual trash mobs, and towards the next boss, Ghaz’an.

Ghaz’an lives in some sort of underground Sea World establishment and hangs out in the central tank. We did get into a bit of a scrape with the guards at the door and ended up in a battle with seven of them at once, which left both of our healers dead, yet somehow Earl hung on and all seven were slain.

We cleared the spectators until only Ghaz’an remained… and the fish. Ghaz’an shares his tank with a bunch of aggressive fish. You don’t want to fall in that water. I know.

Feeding Time

The fight with Ghaz’an was touch and go, with Vikund, who was trying to play backup healer again, standing in the wrong spot and getting knocked off the platform three times. This is how I know the fish are aggressive, as they came after Vik. Fortunately, this isn’t EverQuest II and the fish stay in the water. (Okay, water creatures don’t do that any more in EQ2, but I still remember being chased across the Thundering Steppes by a flying octopus.)

Anyway, when Vik wasn’t running back up to the platform, he was trying to keep Earl healed, which turned out to be a tough job, as Ghaz’an’s area attacks ended up taking down Ula and Skronk. Then Earl went down and Vik rushed in, forgetting that he hadn’t bothered to heal himself at all.

Fortunately, Ghaz’an was about done as well and we prevailed on our first run at him.

He dropped our only nice loot piece of the night, a 2H mace called Hatebringer. And, being the only 2H mace wielder, Vikund got it. The rest of the bosses just taunted us by dropping leather pieces.

Done with Ghaz’an, we were somewhat lost. We didn’t see a way out of the tank room other than the way we came, so we doubled back and went looking for anything we might have missed.

After much searching we ended up back at the tank room. We decided we had better search the water.

It appears that when Ghaz’an goes down, he takes his fish friends with him, so the water was safe.

While we found nothing in the water, Earl noticed a crack in the side of the tank that, from some angles, just looked like a change in color. We swam over, climbed through, and finally found our way forward.

With the 45 minute wandering over, it was back to fighting. There was no losing the trail now though, as it was one long cavern that lead to the third boss, Swamplord Musel’ek.

The swamplord has a companion, Windcaller Claw, a druid who has been charmed by the swamplord and who fights for him in bear form.

We went with the basic plan, assumed that Claw would come to our side once his master was down, so concentrated on the swamplord. And we died for our trouble. Claw has some bad attacks.

Skronk died a little too close to Swamplord Musel’ek and ended up getting killed again quickly. Short a soul stone and had to run all the way back from the graveyard for round two.

The second time around Vikund went after Claw and pulled him away from the main fight while everybody else hammered Swamplord Musel’ek.

This turned out well, the swamplord going down readily. Then we turned on Claw who, at 20% health, restores to his normal form and becomes the last mob you need for the quest Lost in Action.

With our lost wanderings and wipes, it was getting a bit late for us. We are now used to nice, two hour or less runs, and we were well past three hours gone at that point.

But there is not much left after the swamplord. A couple of mobs, then the Black Stalker, the biggest marsh walker in the swamp.

The fight with him was short but violent. The Black Stalker has an effect that lifts a party member up and out of battle until it is dispelled. For some reason, Vikund was the main recipient of the attack, and spent a good deal of time airborne.

While waiting for a dispel, I just pretended to be asteroid mining in EVE Online.

More Veldspar

Flighty paladin or not, we beat him down quickly and were done.

And that rounded up our first run at the Underbog.

While the next instance on the list is the Mana Tombs, we actually went into the Underbog without all of the quests for the instance. That will probably mean at least one return trip. We could probably use the experience too. Looking at the instance guide, the level recommendations for upcoming instances ramp up rather quickly to level 70. Everybody except Bung hit 65 on this run, but it might be nice to get closer to 66 before we move on.

We’re thinking about level 66? We might hit level cap before Wrath of the Lich King hits the shelves!

That would be a new experience for me!

How Cooking Mama pwnd Middle-earth

There is this list, a list of the top 100 games sold over the last year, and there isn’t a single MMO on it.

How could this be? I had to find out the details!

So I followed the trail of links back to original article.

I first saw it on Massively, which linked back to Joystiq, which lead me to Next Generation.

There I found the actual list of 100 games, plus the details about how the list was compiled.

And, as usual, the devil is in the details.

First, the list is for game sales between March 1, 2007 and March 1, 2008. Fine, I can go with that.

But then, the list is also restricted to games that were actually RELEASED between March 1, 2007 and March 1, 2008.

Ah, ha!

So, the list really isn’t the Top 100 best selling games of the last year.

Sorry Blizzard, Burning Crusade didn’t make the cut.

Not that I will cry too many tears for Blizzard. Do they need to be at the top of another list?

(Somewhere Brad McQuaid is saying, “Hey, if we’d delayed a little longer, we might have had a shot!” No Brad, go back outside and play.)

So within that time frame, the number of massive titles is pretty sparse. 2007 was the year of postponement for MMO titles.

Still, there were some titles that had some potential to make the list.

Pirates of the Burning Sea was in the right time frame, if a bit late in the 12 month cycle. Judging from the recent server merge news however, where they are reducing from 11 to 4 servers, I am going to guess that they weren’t in the running.

Then there was Tabula Rasa. It did not make the list either, but it got a bit of a lukewarm reception at launch as well, so that wasn’t a big surprise.

And, finally, there was the real contender, the high point of 2007 as far as massive games went, Lord of the Rings Online.

It got excellent reviews and has a strong following compared to any subscription MMO other than WoW.

LOTRO just had to sell 490,000 copies to make the list.

And it failed.

So the bottom positions of the list contain titles with mediocre reviews like Naruto: Ninja Council 3, NASCAR 08, and Cooking Mama: Cook Off, console titles all.

So what does it mean?

The death of PC gaming? (*ducks rock thrown by Darren*)

The ascendancy of consoles?

The failure of MMOs to attract the mainstream?

That goofy search criteria (games both released AND sold during a given time frame) make for goofy results?

That NPD sales figures, which do not count electronic sales or some major retailers (Um, Wal-Mart?) are completely flawed?

Next Generation, in a follow up to this list, has their own analysis of the data, available here.

In reading their analysis, I think the real meaning might be summed as, “Don’t pan for gold in the shower,” to borrow a line from Scott Adams.

Or more specifically, don’t go looking for PC MMO news on a site that seems to only care about console games.

DadHacker

Yesterday I saw on the blog of Jason Scott, (creator of “BBS: The Documentary,” a topic near to my heart, having been a sysop and having had a FidoNet address back in the early 90s) a link to another interesting blog.

Called DadHacker, it covers a wide variety of topics being, well, a blog.

And while the randomness of people’s writing whims do not always lead to a good read, this site is worth a peek.

I even found an entry on MMORPGs.

But the gems in this blog are the entries about the authors days at Atari. Posts like, “Donkey Kong and Me,” “Super Pac-Man,” and “The Atari ST” (part 1 and part 2).

If you like this sort of computer ancient history, go take a look.

Where is Tetris for the DS?

My daughter has had her Nintendo DS for two months now, and I have had my own for a little over a month.

We have been mostly about Pokemon over that time, with some side trips into Horsez 2 and Mario Party DS.

And while I like Pokemon quite a bit, it isn’t really a game to pick up and play frantically for a bit then set aside. It has something of an MMO vibe to it in that there is always something to do, places to travel, people to find, and often, just work to be done. That is good, in that it keeps me coming back, but sometimes you want the a game with no long-term commitment.

I have also fooled around with BrainAge a bit (current age: 33), but sometimes I don’t feel inclined to exercise my pre-frontal cortex by doing math problems or memorizing four letter words.

I went to GameFly to see what games I might put in our queue to scratch that gaming itch.

And, digging through the lists of games, I found Tetris DS.

Now there was a game that seemed worth having.

I was going to put it on the list, but then decided I to just go buy it.

After all, when have I ever been disappointed by Tetris?

I had a copy of Tetris on my Mac SE back in the days when a 9″ monochrome monitor seemed cool and have had versions of the game on a number of different platforms SINCE.

So I started looking around for it when I was out and about.

It wasn’t on the shelf at Fry’s.

No luck at BestBuy.

Strike out at GameStop.

Negative at Toys R Us.

Deciding to get serious, and armed with a gift certificate, I went to Amazon to order it and be done.

And Amazon did not have it. They only had “other ordering options” listed, with copies starting at $48.

Has this edition of Tetris been discontinued?

It is still listed on the official Nintendo DS site.

It even has its own official web site.

The Wikipedia entry on it does not have any details, other than to say that it seems to be oddly hard to obtain in some regions.

Then I went to eBay, to see how the used market was going. Searching on Tetris DS brought up the usual eBay assortment of results. The best of the “not quite what I wanted” entries was this one:

Good luck with that sale.

Filtering out the odd, actual copies of Tetris DS seem to be going for above retail on eBay.

Which brings me back to my question: What became of Tetris DS?

I cannot imagine that it was so unpopular that it would have been dropped. The demand on eBay is keeping the price up such that one might have been better off investing in copies of Tetris DS as opposed to, say, CitiBank.

Who knows the story? What is the mystery behind the lack of Tetris DS?

Moving To Amarr Space

My work at increasing my faction with Ishukone Corporation has had me flying all over empire space, seeking out the highest level, best quality agents that will work with me.

And so it came to pass that I ended up many jumps from home in Amarr space to work with a specific agent.

One of the first things I noticed about Amarr space was that it seemed to be much more sparsely populated. I flew through several low sec systems where nobody was home but me and the NPCs.

Now, in an MMO, low population does not seem like a desirable situation. That is, unless you’re a lone… well… I was going to say “wolf,” but I’ve written about my combat record here… lone sheep? A veritable rogue merino?

Anyway, if you are more the explorer type, like myself, then being in a thinly populated area feels more natural.

Then I started exploring the market.

Opportunities abound!

The regional market around Amarr is also not very well attended, leading to wide variations in price, scarcity of supply, and low competition. Just the sort of thing a budding manufacturer wants to see!

And unlike the market in the thick of Caldari space, buy orders for many of my standard items of trade are nonexistent. I am going to have to go invest in the wholesale skill to up the number of open buy and sell orders I can have.

The situation reminds me of the difference between the horde and alliance markets on my server in World of Warcraft. The alliance side is heavily used and very competitive. Supply is high, margins are thin, and there is always somebody out there willing to undercut your price.

But on the horde side, with a much smaller population, the market is not so fierce. I have made more money on the market with my main horde characters than any three other characters of mine.

And I see something of the same market conditions in Amarr space.

Still, that is not enough to make me pack up and move everything 25 jumps. No, there was one more thing.

(cue Beethoven’s “Ode to Joy” as performed in “A Clockwork Orange”)

Kernite!

Luminous! Fiery! Regular!

I flew through system after system and investigated asteroid field after asteroid field, and I found an abundance of sweet, sweet kernite.

That was enough to get me to start hauling stuff those 25 jumps to set up a new base of operation.

Fortunately, a Hulk, when broken down, fits in a Badger with cargohold expanders, so I did not have to fly the barge itself 25 jumps.

I have not left Caldari space. The pricing differentials and the opportunities for arbitrage will keep me commuting between Amarr and Caldari space.

But my missions, my morning mining runs, my production, those are all going to go on in a new location.

One MILLION Chinese!

The Burning Crusade in a black bean sauce

[Said in that Mike Meyers/Dr. Evil voice.]

Yes, Blizzard’s partner in China, The9, put out a press release to announce that World of Warcraft hit a concurrent play record with one million players logged in and playing on their servers.

While perhaps not the hottest news bite of the day, it is quite a feat.

Only CCP releases similar numbers, and I think the last number for EVE Online was around 40,000 concurrent players. (But all on one server!)

Now somebody is going to be a wet blanket and point out that the players in China only pay twenty seven cents a lunar year to play and so on. But like Stalin said, “Quantity has a quality all its own.”

And then there was the rather silly comment over on WarCry about many of these people being gold farmers. Silly because gold farmers play on US and EU servers, not on the mainland China servers run by The9. Selling gold to people who can only afford such a low price point is not a winning proposition. To make money, you have to sell to people who have dollars or Euros… okay, just Euros.

The real question is what would happen if all million concurrent players pressed the space bar and jumped at the same time?

Of course, one of the interesting things about this press release was ending up, after a few clicks, on the official World of Warcraft China site. I like seeing game screen shots in other languages.

While they were behind the US and Europe getting The Burning Crusade, they appear to be all caught up now and enjoying Patch 2.4 with everybody else.

RMA Part Has Been Shipped

Well, at least Velocity Mirco is taking care of me. I received a note from them this morning with that line.

And, unlike my experiences last year with the x1950 card, I don’t have to send them my card first, then wait around for them to finish. Thank you VM!

In a case of “One screenshot is worth 1,000 minutes on hold,” my LOTRO screen artifacts picture seemed to be enough, along with a short description I submitted to Velocity Micro via their online support page, for them to RMA the card.

So, if LOTRO locking up and making your screen look like this:

LOTRO goes belly up again

feel free to borrow my screen shot.

Of course, I only got to the point of asking them for support after I had exhausted all other paths (so you see, my behavior in EVE is part of my flawed personality) I could think of with my system. Now I have to undo some of those as EVE has started abending on me at random points while I am mining or fighting.

Life in the fast lane I guess.

But at least I might be able to get LOTRO up an stable in time for the 1 year anniversary of it going live.

Strongbad & Homestar on the Wii!

The console war is over now! 

Game Almighty has broken the news that the Brothers Chaps will be working with Telltale Games to bring Homestar Runner to the Wii. 

The game will be called “Strongbad’s Cool Game for Attractive People.”

There is a press release up on the Telltale Games site here.

Nothing on the Homestar Runner site yet, but I’ll be watching for something.